Here are the things you should not do when querying a literary agent. You should not say your manuscript is finished if it is not. You should not lie about the length of your manuscript (for example, if it is 75,000 words but you’ve recently discovered that proper books should be at least 85,000, you should not tell an agent that your manuscript is 88,000 and give yourself three days to make up the difference). Furthermore, if an agent expresses interest in your book and asks you to email her the completed manuscript, you should send it to the correct address.
Nonetheless, being a first time author of the aspiring variety, I decided it would be best to make as many mistakes as possible. I lied through my teeth about the length of the manuscript at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. I gave myself three days to come up with 13,000 words (13,000 good words, mind you and to put that into perspective, my MA dissertation was 20,000 words and took me almost six months to write). And, after three days with approximately as many hour of sleep, I emailed my manuscript to so-and-so at Francis so-and-so (Francis wit an “i”) instead of so-and-so at Frances so-and-so (Frances with an “e”). No wonder it bounced back unread.
A few months ago, I read a brilliant book called “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University.” It inspired me to complete my manuscript. It also inspired to write my first official fan letter. Last month, I received a reply from the author thanking me for my letter and apologizing for having taken so long to write back—something about a new book coming out, barely enough time to shower, etc.
Flattered though I was to receive a response, I was taken aback by the bit about his negligence in the hygiene department. Too busy to shower? Too busy to shower is just a hop, skip and a jump away from insanity, I reasoned. Or at the very least, from abject smelliness and social ostracism.
I thought back to my college days in the Goucher Dance Department. I knew people who were too busy with rehearsals, auditions and various choreographic endeavors to bathe properly but I was never one of them. I don’t think I ever cared about anything enough while I was in college to not shower. Indeed, I used to take two or three showers a day (especially when I had dance classes interspersed with my museum studies class over at Johns Hopkins… no sense going to Hopkins and bumping into handsome genius types whilst wearing a sweat-stained leotard). By my senior year, I was also jogging on a semi-annual basis (more showering required) and even swimming three or four laps in the pool every morning. As such, I showered in the locker room and in my dorm (and managed to lock myself out of my room in a towel on more than one occasion, but that’s a story for another time).
There were times, when I was going through the various backpacking-through-Europe phases of my life (Phase #1: age 14, Phase #2: age 17, Phase #3: age 20 and Phase #4: age 21) that I went a bit longer than socially permissible without a shower, but there are different rules in backpacking. As far as civilian life is concerned, I take at least one, if not two showers a day (two if I’ve been subjected to The Shop and don’t want to subject my yoga mat to the same).
But this all changed last week. In the end, I wrote 10,000 words. 10,000 not-entirely-horrible-words (at least I hope—it was hard to tell with so little sleep). From Tuesday to Friday, I spent my every waking moment either at The Shop or at my computer. I showered on Wednesday, and I showered on Thursday but by the time Friday afternoon rolled around—my personal deadline for finishing and submitting my manuscript (and oh yes, reporting to Reggie #1 for my weekend duties)—I had to make a choice: proof read the last chapter or take a shower?
It was a simple choice in the end.
I now understand what it means to want something so much—be it choreographic brilliance, a second book or in my case a first—that personal hygiene doesn’t matter. I have never cared so much about anything, but it’s been five years in the making and it’s time for my life to start.
And now, seeing as the manuscript is finished, proof read and submitted to the correct email address, I am going to stop blogging and go take a shower.